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Monsoon to hit Kerala by Wednesday

News4u - News Desk :  South-west monsoon, the key to the agriculture driven trillion-dollar Indian economy, is on course and is expected to drench Kerala by Wednesday thereby bringing much-needed relief to farmers.

“Monsoon is round the corner. Parts of Kerala have been receiving rains since this morning. We may declare the onset of monsoon over Kerala coast by Wednesday,” Laxman Singh Rathore, Director General, IndiaMeteorological Department (IMD) said in New Delhi on Monday.

Kerala usually receives monsoon showers by 1st June, but Rathore said there was no need to paint a gloomy picture as the progress of the seasonal rainfall phenomenon was well with the forecast limits which have a model error of four days.

A unique feature of this year’s monsoon would be its steady progress along the western coast bring copious rains to coastal Kerala and leaving the peninsular region relatively dry.

Current observations show central and northern Kerala receiving rainfall while Thiruvananthapuram getting little rains.

Weather watchers attribute the slight delay in the onset of monsoon to Typhoon Mawar which was active in a western Pacific Ocean off the Philippines and sucking away moisture and wind currents to power itself.

“The typhoon has moved northward towards Japan and will no longer affect the progression of the monsoon,” Rathore said.

On the effect of El Nino conditions — warming of the Central Pacific — on the monsoon, he said it was too early to predict any adverse effect.

“At present, El Nino conditions are neutral,” he said indicating that it would not have much impact on the monsoon.

El Nino conditions could turn positive during August- September when the monsoon season draws to a close inIndia.

Scientists said sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific were expected to rise by 0.5 degrees Celsius to 0.7 degree Celsius.

However, they were quick to point out that there was no direct co-relation between El Nino and the monsoon.

“In 1997, El Nino was at its highest with central Pacific sea temperatures rising by four degrees but India had a normal monsoon,” Rathore said.

In 1997, the sea surface temperatures in the Indian Oceanwere favourable for the monsoon which negated the adverse impact of El Nino.

The IMD declares the onset of monsoon over Kerala when 50 percent of the 14 observation stations in the state andLakshadweep islands report rainfall for 48 hours.

Monsoon rains are crucial for agriculture as only 40 percent of the cultivable area is under irrigation.

The farm sector contributes about only 15 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but it employs about 60 percent of India’s population.

Rathore said deviation of 3-4 days in arrival of monsoon rains would have no adverse impact on sowing of kharif crops.

“There is no concern for paddy sowing because seedlings are raised first in nursery through irrigation and then transplanted in the field much later,” he said.

There would be no impact on cotton and sugarcane crops as these long-duration crops are mostly cultivated in areas with irrigation facilities.

On the back of good monsoon in 2010 and 2011, the country harvested a record foodgrains production of 245 million tonnes and 252.56 million tonnes, respectively.

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163 dead in Zanzibar ferry capsize, 100 missing

News4u-Entertainment Desk-K.V.vetryvel-Thekkady (Ker),  The steerman and another crew member of the tourist boat that capsized in Thekkady lake last week, leaving 45 people dead, were arrested Monday.
The steerman of the double-decker boat Victor Samuel and crew member Anish were arrested by the police team probing the tragedy.
They would be produced before a magistrate court at Peerumade in Idukki district later, police said
A preliminary probe into the boat tragedy had found that an overcrowded upper deck and the steeersman’s “carelessness” caused the tourist boat to capsize in the lake here on September 30.

News4u-News Desk-At least 163 people died when a ferry capsized off the popular tourist archipelago of Zanzibar, but over 100 people are still missing, a minister said on Saturday.

“We have recovered 163 people who have died and we have rescued 325 survivors,” said Mohammed Aboud, Zanzibar’s state minister for emergencies, dramatically updating an earlier death toll of 53.

At least 40 of those rescued were seriously injured, including some hit by falling debris as the boat rolled onto one side, he said, adding that the death toll could still rise higher.

Officials said that around 600 people were believed to have been on the stricken ferry, including families returning home after the holidays to celebrate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Survivors have begun arriving back in Stone Town, the main port and capital of the archipelago, with an emergency first aid centre set up in the port to treat those arriving by rescue speed boat from the capsized ferry.

 

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India’s first ‘Rock Theme Park’ in Kerala to woo tourists

News4u – News Desk :

A 1000-feet high rocky hill cluster at Chadayamangalam in south Kerala, believed to be connected with mythical character ‘Jatayu’ in epic Ramayana, will woo tourists as the country’s first ‘Rock Theme Park’.

 

According to local tradition, the rock, ‘Jatayupara’ in Kollam district, is the place where the mythical bird ‘Jatayu’ fell after its wings were slain by the ten-headed Ravana by his lethal sword ‘Chandrahasam’.

As per the epic, Ravana, who ruled Lankapuri (Sri Lanka), chopped off one of the wings of the bird when it tried to block his airship ‘Pushpaka Vimanam’ in which he was forcibly taking away Rama’s consort Sita.

The project is a blend of ecological and epic tourism and the state government, through this public-private partnership venture, is building a high-tech theme park on the rocky terrain with a mammoth statue of ‘Jatayu’ as its core.

A host of facilities such as 4D theatre complex, cable van, ayurveda resorts and massage parlours, ethnic cottages and a mural painting gallery are also taking shape at the spot, located about 50 km from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

The whole site is conceived as a resort where holidayers can relax and have a peep into the culture, heritage and tradition of India through films, paintings in a fitting ambience of panoramic settings, said Rajiv Anchal, noted film maker and sculptor, who is the art-director of the project.

“The huge statue of Jatayu, laying on its back with wings spread out with raised head, will be the heart of the park. The statue, 65 feet in height, 200 feet length and 150 feet width, is designed as a functional structure within which a 50-seat 4D theatre complex will be built,” Rajiv said.

Once completed, the Jatayu sculpture would be the biggest functional sculpture in Asia. It can be termed as the tallest as well, he said.

“The ‘Rock Theme Park’ will strengthen Kerala’s position in the global tourism map. It will open a fresh destination for foreign as well as global tourists,” Rajiv said.

A total of Rs 100 crore was expected for this venture. Fifty per cent of the construction of the bird statue has been completed. “We think we can complete the first phase within one year,” state Tourism Secretary V Venu said.

The bird structure will have three-tiers with a total of 20,000 sq ft utility space. The visitors who enter the sculpture can literally have a bird’s eye view as Jatayu’s eyes are designed to be around windows opening to the world.

“A telescope will also be installed there to have a closer view of the panoramic scenes of the surroundings,” Rajiv, whose film ‘Guru’ got the official Indian entry at the Oscars in 1997, said.

Visitors can view a 4D film on the ‘Jatayu’ episode of Ramayana in the theatre, designed on Hollywood standards.
The inside walls of the structure would be decorated with traditional mural paintings, which would be based on the poems on ‘Jatayu’ penned by Jnanpith laureate ONV Kurup.

Local tradition has it that the village with the imposing rock as its backdrop, got the name ‘Chandayamangalam’ because of its association with Jatayu. The area has remained obscure for long before its tourism potential was discovered.

Only devotees visiting a temple of Lord Rama in the area used to have a glance at the panoramic view of the surrounding area in the past.

A never-drying pond, believed to have sprung when the rock suffered a deep cut from Jayatyu’s beak, and the markings on the rock held in high reverence by local people as foot prints of Rama, are other highlights of the spot.

“As the name itself suggests, rock will be the theme of the park. As part of the project, many artificial rocks, rock-like structures and cottages will be built around without harming the natural rock. It will be built in such a way that nobody could easily understand which is original rock and which are created by artists,” Anchal said.

There would be a winding foot path leading up to the top stretching to several kilometers. Places for rest and a host of kiosks of coffee and ethnic snacks like baked tapioca, ‘chiratta puttu’ and ‘dry-ginger coffee’ will also be set up throughout the path.

Rock-carved honeymoon cottages and herbal gardens to grow a variety of shrubs and plants will be other features of the theme park. Pure water, collected and preserved through rain water harvesting, will be supplied to the visitors round the year. Electricity will also be generated within the park tapping the in-house sources.

“We are planning to build a tiny reservoir to collect and preserve rain water on the rock cluster. Solar panels will be installed and electricity will be produced from solar energy for the park. We have already signed MoUs with private investors for this,” Rajiv said.

The Tourism Department has entered into a pact with a Dubai based company to install a ‘cable car’ facility in the ‘Jatayu Rock Theme Park’, he said.

It would be the first time cable cars were introduced in any tourist centre in Kerala, he said.

“The Rock Theme Park will strengthen Keralas position in the global tourism map. It will open a fresh destination for foreign as well as global tourists,” Venu said.

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Monsoon claims 23 lives in Kerala

News4u - News Desk :

Heavy rains lashing many parts of Kerala have claimed 23 lives since the onset of south-west monsoon on 27th May, besides causing large-scale loss to crop and property.

 

Most casualties, mainly due to drowning in swelling rivers and flash floods, were reported from Alappuzha and Kottayam districts.

With water level increasing at Kuttanad, the state’s rice bowl, in Alappuzha district in central Kerala, many low laying places were now under threat of flood, officials said.

Water has also entered some houses in low lying areas. Vehicular traffic in Alappuzha and Changanassery road has been affected as water has entered a few places.

As per preliminary report, 55 houses have been damaged in rain related incidents.

Crop loss in the state, mainly in Kuttanand, was estimated to be Rs.5.53 crore. Crops in 544 hectares were now under water, the officials said.

To help the affected people, district authorities have opened 13 and 16 relief camps in Alappuzha and Kottayam districts respectively.

More than 4600 people from 434 families have been accommodated in these camps.

 

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40 companies of paramilitary forces to be deployed in Kerala

News4u-News Desk- The Election Commission has informed the Kerala High Court that 40 companies of paramilitary forces would be deployed apart from the state police for peaceful conduct of the 13th April Assembly polls.

The EC standing counsel told the court on Friday that live web-casting will be done to enable district election officers, Chief Electoral Officer and Commission officials to monitor the process in those polling booths which are identified as vulnerable.

The submission was made in a statement filed on petitions by candidates of different constituencies, seeking police protection for themselves apprehending violence.

The entire proceedings in these booths would be recorded and photos of all voters who enter the polling station would be taken.

Voters identity card would be verified outside the polling station.

Micro observers would also be selected and posted by central observers, the Commission said.

 

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SC awards one yr RI to former Kerala minister in graft case

News4u-News Desk- The Supreme Court awarded one year rigorous imprisonment to former Kerala Power minister and Congress leader R Balakrishnan Pillai and two others in the Idamalayar dam corruption case.

A bench of justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan convicted the former minister while reversing the acquittal order passed by the Kerala High Court.

The apex court upheld the prosecution plea that the former Minister has entered into a criminal conspiracy that caused a loss of over Rs 2 crore to the Kerala State Electricity Board by awarding contracts for construction of a power tunnel and surge shaft of the Idamalayar hydro electricity power project to contractor Paulose (now deceased) at extra ordinarily high rates.

The apex court, upholding the appeal filed by the then Leader of the Opposition and present Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, said the high court had committed a grave error by overlooking the clinching evidence marshalled by the prosecution and the conviction rightly awarded by the special court in Kerala.

The apex court also expressed concern that cases of corruption relating to political personalities have been dragging endlessly in the country and pointed that in the present case, though the scandal took place in 1982, the prosecution was launched only in 1991.

The bench said there was clinching evidence to prove Pillai’s involvement in the award of the contract despite the fact that the electricity board was an independent body and was not under the control of the government to warrant his interference.

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Indian Union Muslim League attacks Kerala chief minister’s office

News4u - News Desk : KOZHIKODE (KERALA): The Indian Union Muslim League Saturday accused the Kerala chief minister’s office of conspiring to rake up the ice cream parlour sex scandal case in which the party’s leader P.K. Kunhalikutty was involved.

“We have evidence to prove that a conspiracy was hatched in the office of chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan to malign our party. We will make it public very soon,” said the party’s Lok Sabha member E.T. Mohammed Basheer.

The IUML’s top leaders met in a hurriedly called meeting Saturday to discuss the controversy.

The meeting followed Kunhalikutty’s disclosure in a television interview Friday that the latest allegations against him were raised with the help of India Vision channel.

Former IUML minister and party office bearer M.K. Muneer is the channel’s chairman. There have been media reports about alleged intra-party rivalry between Kunhalikutty and Muneer.

“The manner in which India Vision took up the issue is against all media ethics. We have found that Muneer had no role in it. We will reveal more about the conspiracy after a meeting Sunday, which will be attended by the party’s national president, federal minister E. Ahamed”, added Bashee.

The case of sexual abuse of a minor girl, which involved Kunhalikutty, a former industry minister, was closed by the courts, including the Supreme court, in 2006.

The alleged sex racket in early 1990s used an ice cream parlour in Kozhikode as its base, giving the scandal its name.

The case once again hit the headlines last Friday when Kunhalikutty said he faced a threat to his life from K.A. Rauf, his close relative (their wives are sisters), and that he suspected a forged CD was to be released soon.

Rauf later named two former high court judges, Narayana Kurup and K. Thankappan, who, he alleged, were instrumental in making the case favourable for the ex-minister. IANS

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Kerala Police to submit stampede report to HC by 20th Jan

News4u-News Desk-Kerala police on 20th January will submit to the High Court, a report on the stampede at Pullumedu that claimed 102 lives of Sabarimala pilgrims, a top police official said on Tuesday.

“As required by the court, the police department would submit its report on January 20,” DGP Jacob Punnose told reporters at Thrissur.
Pulling up the government, a Division bench had on Monday asked the Police and Forest departments and the Travancore Devaswom Commissioner to submit a report on the tragedy.
Travancore Devaswom Board manages affairs at the shrine in Sabarimala.

The Bench, comprising Justices Thottathil Radhakrishnan and P S Gopinathan, monitoring the affairs relating to Sabarimala pilgrimage, sought to know the circumstances that led to the stampede and how the situation was handled by the departments concerned.

The judges also expressed displeasure over the neglect of warning given by the court earlier this month about the need to regulate the flow of pilgrims to avoid disasters like stampede.
Reacting to the court order, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan said the proposed judicial probe to be conducted into the disaster would cover all aspects and the guilty would not be spared.
Meanwhile, the investigation by the crime branch into the incident is progressing and its initial report is expected to be drawn up in a couple of days revealing the causes that triggered the worst tragedy that happened in the history of the hill shrine.

Pilgrimage season at Sabarimala to conclude today

The two-month long pilgrimage season of the Sabarimala hill shrine will conclude on Wednesday with the winding up rituals and ceremonies.
Devotees are still coming to the shrine in large numbers and initial estimates said over 30 million pigrims had offered worship at the Lord Ayyappa temple since the season began in mid-November.
The ‘Makaravilakku’ season would conclude Wednesday evening with rituals like ‘Guruthi’ in the presence of the senior member of the Pandalam royal house, temple sources said.
Legend has it that Lord Ayyappa spent his childhood as the adopted son of the Pandalam king, a principality nearly 60 km from the shrine.

After Wednesday’s evening pooja, the royal representative would descend the holy 18 steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum and set out for home without looking back.

The casket of the ‘holy jewels’ brought from the palace for adorning the idol on ‘makaravilakku’ day would be taken by the escorts accompanying the Pandalam Raja.

Temple sources said the flow of pilgrims was still continuing after the initial shock left by the stampede tragedy at Pullumedu, the worst disaster ever to strike the pilgrimage.

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Vigilance probe against former CJI K G Balakrishnan’s kin

News4u-News Desk- Kerala government on Wednesday ordered a Vigilanace probe against former CJI K G Balakrishnan’s son-in-law P V Sreenijan on charges of amassing disproportionate wealth.

State Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan issued the necessary orders in this regard based on a report given by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) Director in favour of conducting a vigilance probe.
According to official sources, VACB director in his report had stated that vigilance probe could be ordered against Sreenijan, a former state youth congress vice-president, under four grounds of Prevention of Corruption Act.
Earlier, the legal advisor of the VACB had opined that Sreenijan would not come under the definition of public servant and had expressed legal maintainability of such a probe.
Despite the initial suggestion from VACB legal advisor that legal grounds for such an inquiry were slim,the Vigilance Director had also conveyed to the Home department that the government had the authority to order any type of inquiry.
The recommendation to conduct an inquiry against Sreenijan was given by Chief Minister V S Achtuthanandan last week based on a private petition received by him.
Sreenijan, who unsuccessfully contested the 2006 assembly polls from Njarakkal segment in Erakulam district, resigned the primary membership of the organisation last week after coming under the cloud of allegations of purchasing real estate properties in posh areas in different parts of the state.

On Wednesday, the Income Tax investigation wing had preliminary enquiry into the allegations of amassment of wealth by Balakrishnan’s two sons in law- P V Sreenijan and Benny and younger brother K G Bhaskaran, a special government pleader of the kerala high court who resigned after the allegations broke out on health grounds.

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SC nod to Kerala court for trial in palmolein oil scam

News4u-News Desk-The Supreme Court has allowed a Kerala court to go ahead with the trial in the multi-crore palmolein oil scam involving Chief Vigilance Commissioner P J Thomas and then Chief Minister K Karunakaran.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha gave the green signal after treating Karunakaran’s appeal as “abated” following his death on 23rdDecember last year.

The Kerala government had earlier moved the apex court seeking vacation of its stay on the trial in the palmolein oil import case in which Thomas is an accused.

The Supreme Court had on 3rd August 2007, stayed proceedings in the case before a designated CBI court in Kerala. There were eight accused in the Palmolein import case.

The chargesheet in the case was filed in 2000 against Karunakaran and seven senior state government officials, including Thomas, who was then Kerala Food Secretary.

The then Chief Secretary of the state, besides Additional secretary and Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation’s Managing Director G G Thomas are also named as an accused in the FIR.

The case pertains to the import of palm oil from a Singaporefirm, which was allegedly done at prices higher than the international rate.

The Karunakaran cabinet had approved the import of 15,000 tonnes of palm oil at a rate of USD 405 per tonne whereas the market price was USD 392.25 per tonne.

As Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies, Thomas had issued the government order for the import which caused a loss of Rs 2.32 crore to the state exchequer.

In November 2005, the state government had decided to move the trial court to withdraw the prosecution against Karunakaran.

In 2006, it, however, cancelled its decision for withdrawing his prosecution stating that there was no such intention and favoured going ahead with criminal proceedings against all the eight accused including Thomas.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court

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